Brands exploit the Indian connect in Hollywood films

PVR had special XXX zones in certain properties where consumers could purchase branded merchandise and click selfies
Rudyard Kipling’s endearing wolf boy Mowgli brought to life last year by Walt Disney Pictures proved beyond doubt that Indian consumers did have an appetite for Hollywood films. In the land of Bollywood, The Jungle Book not only earned Rs 190 crore in its lifetime domestically but also emerged as 2016’s third-highest grosser at the Indian box office.

While the Indian setting of the film and the presence of a prominent Bollywood voice cast did help in increasing buzz, it was its all-round marketing by Walt Disney that finally drew the audience to theatres. In many respects, The Jungle Book established the fact that the right mix of language, content and genre could go a long way in making Hollywood interesting to an Indian audience. Stars such as Nana Patekar, Priyanka Chopra and Irrfan Khan lent their voice to the Hindi dub, which was promoted heavily by Walt Disney. 

The trend incidentally of Indian stars featuring in Hollywood films continues into this year too, with XXX: Return of Xander Cage and Baywatch hitting screens here. While Xander Cage, featuring Deepika Padukone, made its debut in India last week, Baywatch will be released later. The company bringing the movies here Viacom18 Motion Pictures (VMP), which has an association with the films’ producer Paramount Studios, is all too aware of the opportunity these films bring to Indian brands.

“They (films) have the potential to attract audiences. We can, therefore, optimise distribution. For Xander Cage, we knew we would be distributing it in 1,200 to 1,400 screens. What we wanted to ensure is that we got maximum footfalls at these properties, and that is where marketing helped,” Ajit Andhare, COO, VMP, said.

The marketing for Xander Cage began in October 2016 when the studio first released its look and trailer. The fact that Padukone played a central role was known by then. So there was a fair amount of curiosity, Andhare said. Sustaining it was the challenge, though.  

“A common question when an Indian actor goes to Hollywood is ‘how big is the role?’ We reiterated that Deepika did not have a small part by featuring her prominently in the promos. By the time the film released (on January 13), the audience knew she was an important member of the cast,” says Rudrarup Datta, senior vice-president and marketing head, VMP. A similar tack was employed by Sony Pictures Entertainment for the marketing of 2016’s Inferno, starring Irrfan Khan.

Xander Cage’s male lead Vin Diesel was also used to promote the film in an interesting way. Last Diwali, the studio released a video of Diesel wishing Indian viewers in Hindi. “Such videos have a high potential of shareability. There was a high recall for it in metros and non-metros,” he says.

While the studio advertised the film on television, print, radio and outdoor,  digital was the focal point.  The movie premiere on January 12  acted as the big reveal, Datta says.

“The welcome we had planned was in line with our strategy to Indianise the movie. Vin Diesel and the XXX India Premiere were top twitter trends that day,” Datta says.

Marketing in movie halls

Movie integration at cinema halls has become an important aspect in film marketing today. Multiplexes use the occasion to interact and engage with consumers through various initiatives. For Xander Cage, multiplex partner PVR converted its theatres in Mumbai (PVR Citi Mall), Delhi (PVR Priya) and Bangalore (PVR Market City) into special ‘XXX-PVR’ cinemas. These zones offered exclusive merchandise and engagement platforms for patrons including selfie spots, gaming zones and curated meal combos.

Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Cinemas said, “PVR  has always gone beyond the set benchmarks of cinema viewing, and constantly endeavoured to provide an enhanced cinematic experience. Joining hands with partners like Viacom 18 gives patrons an opportunity to connect with their favourite movie franchise even outside the cinema hall.”   

In-cinema advertising incidentally has seen steady growth for both PVR and its rival Inox in recent years. Both chains have said that growth for multiplex operators, in general, will come from innovations within properties. This, they say,  will help brands go beyond on-screen advertising, coming at a time when mainstream advertising is becoming increasingly cluttered. 

At a broader level, on-ground advertising, say experts, has been growing for some time now as brands seek novel ways of consumer engagement. With Hollywood films keen to flaunt their Indian connect slowly emerging, this trend will only grow.

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